If you’re skipping this review because this cover doesn’t interest you (which it should, because it is darling), or because you think a book about wild bird rehabbers won’t interest you, or because you don’t read non-fiction or memoirs all that often, please let me stop you. Flyaway is one of the funniest, captivating memoirs I have read in a long time that manages to find the perfect balance of emotion, information, fact and well-written prose. I can’t recommend it enough!
Let me begin by saying that the world of wild birds is completely foreign to me, especially wild songbirds. My closest connection to the world of birds was my parrot named Clyde. I got him in the fifth grade and we adored each other, even though he bit me when I tried to feed him. Didn’t he know the rules? I think he would have just enjoyed it more if I let him camp out on the edge of my plate and eat my food. It was heartbreaking when, for reasons completely outside of my control, we had to part ways. In that sense, I understood the tiniest bit what Suzie Gilbert was talking about, but other than that, all of the information in this book was new to me.
Suzie Gilbert begins her life as a wild bird rehabber by volunteering at an already established center, but once she caught the rehabbing bug, she couldn’t give it up. Thanks to the donations of several people, Suzie was able to begin her small organization that eventually she names Flyaway Inc. to help injured birds and raise babies and fledglings. With two young children of her own, Suzie vastly underestimates the amount of time being a bird rehabber will take, but with grace and an unfaltering love for the wildlife she protects, Suzie makes rehabbing not only a full time job, but also a lifelong passion. Suzie’s husband and children play a large part in this book and I grew to love them as much as I did Suzie and her birds.
This book is a roller coaster of emotions, from hilarious moments, to touching moments, to downright tear-inducing, tragic moments, but it ebbs and flows so naturally. Not only did Gilbert entertain me, but she educated me. I was briefly considering making my cat an outdoor cat, but Oscar will have to be satisfied watching the birds from the window because Gilbert carefully explained the dangers house cats (and the growing population of feral cats) pose on endangered bird species. Outside of her personal stories, this memoir is filled with information about all the wild birds that Suzie rehabs and about the resources available to people who find injured birds. Though I wouldn’t classify this book a “how-to”, the information within is wonderful for anyone who shares the land with wild birds. So, you know, everyone.
This book is compellingly readable, taking only a few hours to finish, and I have to admit that I was addicted to it this past weekend. I found myself unable to sleep one night until I knew what happened to Suzie and her birds. If I had any complaints, they would be that I would have liked even more information. I wanted to know more about the birds and more about her family. I was also unsure about how much time had passed between the first page and the last. I couldn’t tell how old her children were by the end, but I’m sure that’s a question she could easily answer. These are incredibly minor complaints that do not take away from what a wonderful reading experience this was. I really enjoyed reading this book and I think that everyone who enjoys a good story will too, even if you thought a story about wild birds could never be that interesting… trust me, it is!
A moment when Suzie Gilbert made me laugh –
While most people’s protective instincts are aroused by cuddly creatures such as puppies and ducklings, mine are also triggered by homicidal raptors with records of assault. (56)
A quote that made me tear up a little –
We clean, feed, study, attend conferences, amass arcane knowledge, and learn to handle the creatures who fear us. Our triumph is to accept an injured wild animal, treat its injuries, carefully learn each one of its quirks and preferences, help it heal, and then let it go. If things go according to plan, we will never see it again.
Somehow, this is enough.
“Do you ever fall in love with the animals you take care of?” I asked a rehabilitator, naively, years and years ago.
She gave me a small, rueful smile. “Every single one,” she said. (127)
And, finally, just a passage I thought was particularly lovely –
Time flew toward the summer sky. The small spot of orange became a string of orange lights draped festively around my flight cage, shining into the darkness. The roof opened and fireworks shot straight up into the night and fell as birds, swooping upward before they reached the earth. The string of lights turned into a flock of orioles. And in place of the sound of explosives was a voice so beautiful it could ease a troubled mind and wash it all away. Like rain. (255)
If you are looking for an organization to donate to, or would like more information about what resources are available in your area, please check out the Wildlife Rehabilitation directory. You can type in your zip code and there is a directory including the rehabber’s phone number, location and which animals they take in. Check it out!
Also please check out Suzie Gilbert’s website to watch a video of her releasing a hawk that has been rehabbed! It’s amazing!!
So go read this!: now| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR
Thank you to TLC book tours for providing me a copy of this book to review.